Readers’ Choice Revenue Increases 25% YOY, Votes Double

by Marty Carry Arizona Daily Star

Case Study Highlights

  • Over $125,000 in total revenue
  • $30,000 in all-digital revenue
  • 200,000 votes – doubled from the previous year!

The Idea

The State Journal-Register is a 42,000 circulation daily paper in Springfield, Illinois. I began my Readers’ Choice program at The Wichita Eagle back in 2010 after researching over 30 nationwide programs. We were thrilled to come in over $100K both years I was in Wichita. The State Journal-Register has half the circulation and the market size is about 60% less than Wichita, but our goal did not change from the $100K mark.

In 2013, the State Journal-Register launched a new Readers’ Choice program and generated $100,000 in revenue. In 2014, we aimed to increase our revenue by at least 20%. We also hoped to increase engagement and the number of total votes.

The Execution

Vote for Me ads were available for the pre-ballot print special section in January.

Voting lasts for 9 days, and then we tabulate and produce the Results print special section in March. The overall top vote-getter is declared the Winner, while the businesses who came close are named Favorites. This year we also included network online display to increase the engagement for our program and our customers.

Our promotional strategy was diverse, as we promoted the ballot with everything from radio interviews and signage at events, to social media and blog posts.

We also of course utilized both online and print advertisements. There were many print ad sizes for our advertisers to choose from, and we offered them a chance to purchase “Vote for Me” ads for a pre-vote ballot special section. If an advertiser bought an ad in this special section, we added their name to the seeded ballot so they could be a visible choice and not have to rely on being a write-in.

We gave every advertiser who participated in the ballot section posters to hang in their locations, business card-sized “Vote for Me” handouts, and buttons for staff to wear.

Every winning advertiser received a digital banner ad on our online network (beyond just our site), a marble plaque or certificate, and a window cling. Plus, we keep the Readers’ Choice section up on our site for the whole year, and the winners are given a logo to use on their own site.

The Results

This program generated over $125,000 in revenue, with $30,000 coming from the network online display component of the program.

Our engagement level doubled from the year before, as there were over 200,000 votes cast. Plus, as our program is now in its second year we have created a recognizable franchise. You can see our Readers’ Choice logo all over town – on billboards, on digital signage, on TV ads, mentioned on the radio, and of course in newspaper and online ads.

Overall, this program is one of the best we run all year. It offers affordable exposure for advertisers because it will not crush their budgets for the quarter. Plus, it truly enhances their visibility, especially if they are winners and are able to post that for the whole year. Small, medium and large size companies now look forward to it and the competition is getting stronger every year.

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